Thinking through Digital Media

Transnational Environments and Locative Places


Chapter 3: Documenting Databases and Mobilizing Cameras

This chapter turns to projects that think about and through the digital structures of data and databases, and the mobility of digital cameras. These projects explore how digital media disrupts conventional structures by prompting a rethinking of the concept of documenting that foregrounds spatiality over temporality, relationality over causality, and automated functions over auteurist choice.

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Phone Story

Italy, 2011 | Molleindustria

Phone Story questions the material waste that accumulates through consumerism. In an ever-widening culture of disposable gadgets, it looks at end-of-life for phones in relation to end-of-life for the exploited workers whose under- or unpaid labor makes these gadgets inexpensive. The project also underscores ways that mobile phones are mobile: they move across borders not only during packaging, shipping, consumer sales, but also during preproduction of raw materials, production of parts, assembly into products, and afterlives as e-waste. 

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La Buena vida (The Good Life)

Colombia/United States, 2005–2010 | Carlos Motta

La Buena vida is an audio database about the ongoing processes of democratization in Latin America in response to foreign interventionist policies initiated by the United States. The project presents an archive of voices across Latin America, processing the experiences and ideas of people as they live through political and economic change. Along with installations of the project, its online archive allows searching a digital database of more than 360 video interviews conducted between 2005 and 2008. Topics covered include perceptions of US foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and governance. 

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Face to Facebook

Italy, 2011 | Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico

Face to Facebook asks users to rethink aspects of their personal identities they give away to Facebook. As hundreds of millions of Facebook users attempt to negotiate the corporation’s ever-changing privacy settings, the project stages an occasion for reflection about user complicity. The project scrapes public data from one million Facebook profiles, filters them with face-recognition software, sorts them by expression, and them posts them to a dating- service website called Lovely-Faces.